Divine Beauty at St. Aloysius Chapel

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By Jessy Pinto
Bellevision Media Network

Mangalore, 16 Sep 2012:


Brother Antonio Moscheni sat with his eyes closed in front of the altar at St. Aloysius Chapel for his morning prayers. When he opened his eyes, the sun’s rays were shining through the Belgian glass on the top windows, covering the chapel in a divine glow. He bent and prayed again. Lord, have mercy. Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof; but only speak the word… Give me strength, O Lord.


Brother Moscheni must surely have been looking at his own painting of Jesus’ miracle of healing the Centurion’s servant before he prayed. For such faith-rousing and seeped in the colors of life are these paintings that it would move everyone to pure awe of the painter as well as his inspiration, the Lord. And these paintings are in the very centre of Mangalore, St. Aloysius Chapel at Lighthouse Hill, located inside the renowned St. Aloysius College.


During  Past four years  of my stay in the Mangalore, I was not at all aware that we have such a admirable beauty in Mangalore city itself. But few days back I was stuck with some works near St Aloysius Chapel and somehow the blessed Chapel pulled me continuously for four days. I was sitting inside there, praying and looking around the Unique beauty of it. The first time to see it myself, the beauty of the Chapel went deep inside my heart that for 4 days continously I landed to the Chapel and my eyes started admiring the beauty and art work of it. Also the surroundings are so beautiful and peaceful. Finally the end of 4th day I have decided to expose this artle to as many people as I can.


St. Aloysius Chapel is situated at a prime location for those who passes by Mangalore. Just few minutes from Milagres Church.  It is not a surprise that visitors from over 63 countries across the World come to visit this cultural honour. Mr. Henry Pereira, the guide to the chapel, said that he has seen people from several countries, with the number of visitors from Europe being the highest. Apart from a large number of domestic tourists, innumerable school children pay visit from Dakshina Kannada and other parts of the state, as well as from the other four south Indian states.


The Chapel Front View


Entire Chapel View from Entrance


Alter View from Entrance


Entire Alter View


 The Alter


 Finding of Jesus in the Temple


Baptism of Jesus


Dedication of the Chapel


 Infant Jesus


Painting of the Stand (Left)


Painting of the Stand (Right)


St Ignatius Loyola


 St Francise Xavier


 St Aloysius


The Main Alter


Dedication of Aloysius


Rear View of the Cieling of the Roof


 Rear view of the wall and cieling


Recieving the First Holy Communion


The chapel is quite celebrated despite its quite ordinary location. It was built in 1880 by the Jesuits, the Christian priestly order that runs the college, with St. Aloysius as the chapel’s patron saint. St Aloysius died at a young age of 23 years, and his life is an ideal example for youth for service and dedication, and the college aims at imbibing similar goals among its young 14,000-odd students. The college itself was built in 1880 and its southern wing dedicated to prayer purposes.


Pereira, who patiently takes each visitor through the nuances of the chapel, also explained to me each painting, their reference point and their significance, as also the life of St. Aloysius, Jesus Christ as well as that of Italian-born Br. Moscheni. The painting work on the chapel began in March 1899 and ended in August 1901. Br. Moscheni adorned the entire chapel single-handedly in a time of two years and five months, in the design of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, a place he had visited in his early life as an art student. He has also painted several churches in his native town of Bergamo, as well as Albania and Yugoslavia. After his period of work at St. Aloysius Chapel, Mangalore, he went to Bombay to paint the Holy Name Cathedral, in Goa, Basilica of Bon Jesus & St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, after which he went to Cochin to paint the Basilica of Santa clause, where the Vasco-de-Gama has been buried. There when he about to complete the painting on the ceiling of the basilica, he fell sick and within a month he went see the face of the Divine Master, for whom he has painted in various ways on canvases and frescoes. It was here that he left for heavenly abode on November 15, 1905.


The chapel can be divided into the following parts in order to understand its architecture and paintings – nave (the large hall), the aisle (the sides of the nave), the sanctuary (the raised platform which contains the main altar) and the balcony on the first floor above.


The paintings in St. Aloysius chapel can be divided into two types: Italian Frescoes and Canvases. Frescoes are painted on wet lime wall using natural colour powders. The walls on both the aisles and pillars are covered with frescoes. Pillars that resemble marble or granite are actually painted to look so – a very deceptive semblance indeed! Canvases are painted with oil colours on linen cloth. The paintings on the ceiling of the nave and the balcony are canvas paintings. These were painted by the artist and then raised to the ceiling and frames were painted around them. Br. Moscheni used bamboo scaffolding to reach the ceiling to achieve this feat. The chapel contains around 600 sq. mts of fresco painting and 400 sq. mts of oil canvas paintings.
The murals in the chapel narrates two life stories side by side – that of Jesus, beginning from the Presentation of Mary at the Temple to the Ascension of Jesus, and that of St. Aloysius. While Aloysius’s life is depicted along the ceilings of the nave and the life and miracles of Jesus are painted along the walls, ceiling and the inner portion of the pillars of the aisle. It is the Gospel stories that greet the visitors when they step into the chapel, though the main ceiling consists of canvases from the life of St. Aloysius.


Aloysius Gonzaga was born a Marquis, but he showed religious leanings from his early life. His life is depicted on the ceiling of the nave, beginning from the painting on the ceiling at the entrance end of the Chapel, where the child Aloysius can be seen promising at the altar of Mother Mary in Florence that he will devote his life to the service of God. The next painting shows him preaching about the word of God to the people of his town. This particular painting was released as a postal stamp by the Indian postal department on the occasion of the centenary of this chapel.


The next painting shows the first Holy Communion of Aloysius Gonzaga at the hands of Cardinal Charles Borromeo, followed by the picture of Aloysius giving up his right of Marquisate to his younger brother. Thereafter he sought admission into the Society of Jesus (fifth canvas). His story continues to the pictures above the altar, with the one to the right of the altar showing him reconciling his brother and his uncle, who were not on good terms. The painting right above the altar shows Aloysius serving the people of Rome when they were struck by a deadly plague, when no one else dared go near them. In the painting on the right side of the altar, we can see Aloysius on his death-bed, having succumbed to the very plague he set out to heal. So life-like are the pictures and the colours that one cannot but feel that they are viewing a short biography of Aloysius in Technicolor on a life-size screen. The artist’s choice of incidents in the eight canvases is great stopping points to give an insight into the life of a devoted saint.


Side View from Floor


Entire Chapel View from Balcony


Main Alter from Balcony


 Left Side View from Balcony


Right Side View from Balcony


 Trinity above the Alter


 The Floor


Picture published as a Stamp (Preaching the word of God)


 Br. Antonio Moscheni SJ (Artist)


Master Piece of entire Paintings in rear wall




The Parables


However, these paintings are just a beginning of demonstration of even greater artistry and a more nuance-filled narration and symbolism, bringing out the best of stories from the Gospels and Christianity. If we look down from the ceiling of the nave our eyes rest on the sloping portion of the ceiling that is covered with portraits of the Apostles. The twelve apostles are the twelve disciples (excluding Judas, the betrayer) who were with Jesus till the end of his life. Each Apostle is depicted holding the weapon he was killed with or the way he was killed, and the paintings are life-size, though they appear smaller from the viewing point of a visitor, a clever use of proportions. The panels of Apostles run from above the higher arch at the Sanctuary to the rear wall in the sort of a semi-circle.


First in line on the left, beginning at the Sanctuary, is St. Peter, who accepted his companionship with Jesus after denying him three times at the crowing of the cock as predicted by Jesus. He was the keeper of the Keys and was crucified head down in Rome. His artwork panel also depicts the cock and the keys, symbolic of the two main points of Christianity directly related to him. Next comes St. Andrew, who was crucified as a martyr in Patros on an X-shaped cross, which is depicted in the portrait. St. Thomas, the Apostle of India, whose remains are preserved at St. Thomas Basilica in Chennai, was killed with a spear while he was praying on a mount. His portrait shows him holding the weapon. St. Philip was crucified and stoned to death at Hierapolis, so his painting depicts him with a cross. A saw used by the Persians to kill St. Simon is present in his picture.


Moving to the right, one can find St. Paul, who was beheaded on the same day as St. Peter, and his panel shows him with a sword. St. James the greater, the first of the Apostles to be martyred, is depicted with the sword that killed him. St. James the less holds the bow and arrow that sent him to heaven at Jerusalem, while St. Bartholomew, who was flayed alive, is shown upholding his right arm with its skin torn from the flesh. The last in the panel is St. Jude, who was clubbed to death in Persia. Linking all the panels of the Apostles is a garland of flowers. It is interesting to note that no flower in the garland is similar to the other. According to guide Pereira, the artist was inspired by the flowers and leaves found locally at the time.


Two of the Apostles are depicted along with the Evangelists (the writers of the Gospels) in the Sanctuary – St. Matthew, who is believed to have died as a martyr, and St. John, who was the only among the twelve to die of old age. Mark and Luke, the other Evangelists who were not among direct disciples of Jesus, are also part of this segment of painting.


The lower arches consist of murals of Jesuit saints who gave their life for the sake of Christ. On the higher arches are painted early Christian saints, those on record before the 15thcentury. These artworks strengthen the Christian flavour of the paintings at St. Aloysius Chapel and depict all that the faith holds sacred.


There are two projecting larger-than-life frescoes paintings on both the side of the altar, with a third dimension making them look like statues. These minimally coloured paintings portray two stories: In the left sketch, a rich young man asks Jesus, “What should I do to be perfect?” to which Jesus replies, “Go sell all you have and follow me.” In the right painting, Mary and Joseph find their son Jesus, who has been missing for three days, at the Temple. Jesus is telling them, “Must I not be about my (heavenly) Father’s business?”


In addition to the artwork that beautifies the church, a few other items at the chapel add mystique to the place. The hexagon blocks on the floor of the chapel are three-dimensional, arranged to give one a sense of climbing steps as one walks around and The stained glasses in the chapel were brought from Belgium at the time of the chapel’s construction.


The largest painting in the chapel is on the rear wall opposite the sanctuary, which portrays Jesus’ love for children. This is considered a masterpiece of Br. Moscheni, with fine attention to details as Jesus is shown seated with children huddled around him and the townsfolk watching in wonder. However, this painting suffered a lot of damage over time along with the others in the chapel, due to heat, wear and tear, seepage of rain water and the resultant fungus and calcium carbonate crystals covering. Even though paintings in the entire chapel were restored by specialists at Intach-ICI, Lucknow during the period November 1990 to April 1994, a small patch of this painting can still be seen in damaged condition. Post the restoration of paintings, the chapel was covered with adequate precautions against rain and wind upon guidance from the specialists. Recently, the amount of sunlight entering the chapel has also been limited.


The Sanctuary, into which visitors are not allowed as it contains the sacred altar where the Eucharist and the daily Mass are conducted by priests, also contains several other symbolic and religious relics. Above the altar table are four niches with silvered brass statues of St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. John Berchmans, and St. Stanislaus Kostka, all notable Jesuit saints. Above the Tabernacle (the locked box in which, the bread and wine for the Eucharist is stored) is the Crucifix with the image of Lord Jesus Christ, and above that is a life-size statue of St. Aloysius. On the top corners of the Altar are small plaster of Paris statues of St. Peter Claver and St. Alphonsus Rodriguez.


On the sloping ceiling right above the altar, as also at the two ends of the aisles, are the abbreviation IHS (either the first three letter of the word IHSUS meaning Jesus in Greek or Iesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus the savior of mankind, in Latin), the iconic monogram of the Catholic sect. Also on the sloping part of the Sanctuary ceiling are the representations of Jesus’s virgin mother Mary and father Joseph.


To the left of the steps to the altar are St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesuits that runs St. Aloysius Chapel and college, while to the right stands St. Francis Xavier, who formed the first group of Jesuits.


The two aisles on the left and right contain most of the portrayals of the life of Jesus, along with two different altars, the left one dedicated to Mother Mary and the right to St. Joseph, her virgin spouse. Beginning from the altar of Mary, there are paintings of the first mother of humanity, Eve, and her companion Adam; representations of Sts Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary; presentation of Mary at the Temple, that of the angel Gabriel announcing the Holy Father’s plan for Mary to bear Jesus and other important points of Mary’s life, including her deathbed and the Coronation of Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth.


After smaller paintings of Mary, the artist shifts to his focus, that of the Son, Jesus Christ. Various life-size murals depict the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple on the 40thday, Adoration of the Wise Men who offer gold, frankincense and myrrh at Jesus’ feet, the finding of Jesus in the temple at the age of 12, His baptism by John the Baptist in river Jordan at the age of 30, the Temptation of Christ on top of a hill where he is offered all the kingdoms in place of God’s way, the first miracle of Jesus – turning water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, and several other parables that depict Jesus as the Healer and the miracle-maker. The Sermon on the Mount, where the preaching of the Beatitudes occurs, as well as the transfer of power of Keys to St. Peter are also painted in much detail.


In the right aisle, several Gospel stories are etched on the walls, including the first multiplication of loaves, where Jesus fed 5,000 people with just one loaf of bread; the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor before Sts Peter, John and James in the presence of Moses and Elias; the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem a day before his crucifixion, popularly observed as Palm Sunday; the Last Supper; the Agony of Christ where his sweat turned into blood; putting the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head and bringing him before the townsfolk; the crucifixion of Christ; the Redemption on Easter Sunday; and finally the Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven and the Pentecost.


The first painting on both the aisles, those right under the first floor balcony are the only ones that have to be viewed facing away from the altar – all the rest in the aisle can be viewed while facing the altar. The only painting in the aisles in which Br. Moscheni has used darker colours is the Agony of Christ, wherein the atmosphere of the painting conveys to a viewer the agony Christ may have undergone. The use of light and dark in each of the paintings is very charming, often lending a three-dimensional effect. Apart from the larger paintings; the artist has also made faces of angels – none like another – all along the inner side of the pillars of the aisle. The twelve stations of the cross, a common fixture in all Catholic churches, is not missed here too, with the stations appearing between the larger paintings from the Gospel on both the walls of the aisle.


The finery of each painting, if described in detail, would take me another 3,000 words, and though they do deserve the narrative, it would be much better if I leave you to experience their ornate beauty built through attention to detail, intricacy and rich colours. Pereira takes one through all the paintings depending on your interest and time availability, and helps you admire and understand the creation of a great religious artist.


Welcome to St. Aloysius Chapel. Welcome to the World heritage of Mangalore.


Jessy Pinto - Ex Kuwait & now  Member of Konkan Overseas Returnees Welfare Association, Mangalore (KORWA)


Comments on this Article
sumith s rao, mangalore Wed, April-3-2013, 12:37
This chapel is where we used to spend all our free time in high school.Even today I take visitors to this chapelon a regular basis This chapel is no mean achievement and is definitely comparable tothe sistene in rome for its frescos.Even in size it is quite big because the sistine measures only some 5900 odd square feet and aloysius chapel mustbe at least 5000 sq feet a remarkable feat indeed appreciate your detailed report on the church a must see for anyone visiting mangalore
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Sat, September-22-2012, 2:04
The photographs are painstakingly vivid and the narrative exhaustive. The author has put her soul into constructing this feature. Kudos. well done, Jessy and BV. At personal front, I have spent a little more than 500 hours of my life inside this chapel in my late teens. Doing things Anil, Mangalore describes; not only in early morning but at evenings as well. Have been bitten by innumerable mosquitoes that then resided within, yet, I was not afflicted even a a simple cold, let alone malaria and filaria so common in those days. The chapel has been a place evokes in my mind mostly blissful peaceful and positive memories and only one negative emotion of a personal nature. I have taken every member of my household to this chapel on almost every visits to the city, and I have not missed kneeling to pray at the same pew that I used then. The chapel thus holds a special place in my life. With ASI protected national monument status, I hope the beauty is preserved and propagated, as done here by the author.
Ivan Saldanha., Mangalore Fri, September-21-2012, 9:28
Thanks for a good write-up! Do let us see more! ALL GOOD WISHES WARM REGARDS!
Eric Carvalho, Muscat-Dubai Tue, September-18-2012, 9:34
Thank you Jessy
Simi, Mangalore Tue, September-18-2012, 5:32
Mr.Roy You are right. excellent Job done by Sr. Jessy. being in mangalore i didnt know about aloysious chapel. after reading Sr.Jessy article i visited once. and its really very nice.
ria anna, mangalore Tue, September-18-2012, 5:26
such a Nice history of chapel.very nicely explianed by Jessy Mam. thank you so much.. keep it up.
Simon kasaragod, Kerala India Tue, September-18-2012, 1:00
Sr. Jessy Jessy Al Sayer Jessy Bai Jessy Gen. Secretary of KORWA Jessy Kanajar this all comen name of your You are doing good social work and writings keep it up we pray in our pryaer spacially allways in Hoolly Cross Hill daily Sr. Jessy Keep this sprit allways thank you
Florine Rodrigues, Kattingeri/USA Mon, September-17-2012, 3:00
Excellent report on St. Aloysius Chapel and truly beautiful photography Jessy. I would love to visit this Chapel next time I visit you. Good to see you doing social work around Mangalore. You are using your God given talents for good cause. May God bless you abundantly.
Roy Pinto, Mangalore Mon, September-17-2012, 1:00

Amazing job! being in Mangalore i didn’t know the story of this chapel. Thanks to you Sr.Jessy for her wonderful coverage.May god bless you and your work too...

Lobo, Mangalore Mon, September-17-2012, 12:18
Beautiful Pictures and excellent piece of writing the rich history of St. Aloysius Chapel. Keep on writing Jessy. Planning to visit with my friends from U.S. next month. Jessy looking forward to your next article....God bless you..
regina d mello, belman udipi Sun, September-16-2012, 6:52
Nice to read your article Sr. Jessy of Grace ministry Jejus your good social work and other activities good for the socity please continue how is your cute homly intelegent daugther we pray for prosparous carrier our regards to all your KORWA association members
Anil, Mangalore Sun, September-16-2012, 1:10
I used to visit this chapel very often in my younger days, and would often attend mass here in the early morning hours. I had a special attachment, peace, quiteness, sanctity, divine feeling being in this chapel. It was my desire to have my nuptials in this particular place, but our bishop refused to a commoner like me, stating that it would spoil the paintings if videos or photographs were taken, and that its given only to the staff of Aloysius. In the same year of refusal, I see pictures of this same very chapel in other media networks, about celebrations for anniversaries, and nuptial. The negativity among men that create division in our society, is deeply irreversible, but we must look forward and hope for change in our society and for our next generation. This chapel is amazing.
Benedict Noronha, Udupi Sat, September-15-2012, 11:13
Great contribution Jessy Pinto. It is a very rich subject of a great history to read leisurely. The presentation is indeed very impressive. I appreciate your contribution to the viewrs of Bellevision. Keept on giving such uique subjects.Thank you
Valerian john, Moodubelle Udipi Sat, September-15-2012, 9:22
Sr. Jessy wonderfull coverage of the church or the chapel you are doing good social work we are proud your are being promoted as gen. secretary of KORWA this kind of association badly neaded in mangalore please write KORWA s activities and the purpose of the association thank you Sr. Jessy.
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